I've been threatening for some time to do an essay that summarises the "why do girls like boys who do boys?" thread from rasfc in June/July 2003. This is a placeholder, with some notes as I go through the thread. Please feel free to comment and add further suggestions -- I'll work it up into something more coherent later. Possibly much later.
There was also discussion of the difference between graphic and explicit, whether it is possible to tell whether an erotica writer is male or female (often, but not always, yes), definitions of homosexuality through the ages, fanfic, and is there anyone in the known universe who doesn't want to shag Legolas...
[ETA: this was a discussion on a pro sf writers' group and was initially about profic, although we also drew on fanfic as the discussion progressed. I haven't explicitly identified most of the people involved, but as several of them read this LJ, if anyone wants to be credited, speak up. :-)]
a) Why do women like m/m:
The classic answer is "Why do straight men like f/f?" But while that's a factor, it's a bit more complicated than that. And the one thing everyone agreed on is that different women will have different reasons for enjoying m/m, and the following are just some common ones that don't necessarily apply to all m/m fans, or even the same person all the time.
There was speculation from some of the guys that a lot of the attraction f/f has for straight men is from envisioning expecting to be invited to join the party.
A lot of the women in the discussion agreed that this was a factor in straight women enjoying m/m -- while we know perfectly well that if they're really gay, we won't be invited, it doesn't bar enjoyment of the fantasy, any more than knowing that we aren't really going to get off with some hot actor stops us fantasising about meeting him in a hotel somewhere and having hot monkey sex with him. [I'll note here that knowing that John Barrowman is both gay and married to his partner of many years does not stop me having such fantasies about him...]
Mary Gentle mentioned: "The women/MM theory used to be the exact opposite -- that because the participants were both oriented towards males, there was no chance the woman could be invited to join, and hence there'd be no sexual anxiety on her part." I've seen this one mentioned before, usually by women who think it's batshit insane (though Mary phrased it slightly more politely).
It was also common to simply enjoy the aesthetics -- it's pleasurable to watch because they look so pretty, and if one is good, two are better. AKA, "I'm a straight woman, why would I want to look at a naked woman, if I'm going to look at two naked sweaty bodies I'll have them both male, thank you very much." Drop the "why would I want to look at a naked woman?" and you have part of the appeal for many bi and even some lesbian women.
Men are stereotypically emotionally controlled, and m/m is a way to see not just one but *two* of them opening up emotionally, and having to deal with their emotions. They're allowed to care about each other, and to show that they care, and that appeals to women.
The illicit pleasure of enjoying something we've been told we shouldn't enjoy.
And with fanfic, the malicious pleasure of taking two all-action heroes from a show where the token woman is there as a Bad Conduct Prize and doing things with them that would cause the target male audience to faint.
"The theory I've heard on women and MM texts is that it's an
additive combination of the following:
- romances involving people who do active and exciting things are fun
- romances involving egalitarian relationships are fun
- MF romances have extreme difficulty being egalitarian
- men are more able to do interesting and exciting things
Ergo: fun romances involve an egalitarian, hence same-sex,
couple, doing active and exciting things, hence male. "
It simply feels fresher than m/f, for someone who's read an awful lot of m/f.
If you want to explore a non-egalitarian or power-play relationship, writing m/f means dealing with readers' expectations about gender roles. Writing m/m (and f/f) allows an author to explore such a relationship without the cultural baggage. Sometimes a writer might want to do that in order to highlight those expected gender roles, and sometimes it might simply get in the way of looking at *other* sources of power differential, such as class.
There's also the fact that even without gender role expectations, having the same plumbing on both sides makes for different power dynamics. And as someone mentioned elsewhere, straight men aren't used to being penetrated -- watching them deal with that is interesting, and ties into the thing about men making themselves emotionally vulnerable.
Enjoying identifying with the male characters -- and m/m gives you two for the price of one.
b) Why isn't more of it published:
"Especially as the suits at the conglomerates are typically middle-aged men, who don't want to believe that anyone could like that queer stuff when they could be reading about mud-wrestling Amazons instead."
And not just middle-aged men: "There are plenty of women who really don't like That Sort Of Thing, for whatever reason, and it's clear that it's never occurred to some of them that other women do." (JJ)
"It used to drive me potty that publishers of women's porn would say, oh, well, we don't want too much MM sex, women don't read it -- until I realised that they were bothered about their 25% or 50% crossover _male_ readership, who were the ones they really thought would be put off by MM scenes. And they needed those sales.  Didn't seem to occur to them that they might have gathered a female readership larger than the male one they might lose." (MG)
- Girls who like boys who do boys (preliminary notes)